Metropolitan Police have been investigating the disappearance of Carole Waugh.
LONDON -- British police fear a former oil executive has been abducted by a gang of fraudsters who have tried to sell her $1 million London apartment and may have forced her to hand over her bank codes, according to reports Thursday.
Detectives searching for Carole Waugh, 50, said that an unidentified man impersonating her brother had met people in her apartment in central London's upmarket Marylebone neighborhood in an apparent attempt to sell the property, The Times reported (site operates behind a paywall).
Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane also told Britain's Press Association that "very substantial amounts of money" had been stolen from Waugh's bank accounts.
Waugh, who has previously worked in the oil industry in London and Libya, has not been seen by family or friends since April, when they discussed a planned 50th birthday party for her in June. The case has been passed to the London Metropolitan Police's homicide and serious crimes division.
'Completely out of character'
McFarlane told the PA that financial activity linked to her identity has also grown "incrementally more suspicious." Police have released images of a man outside a supermarket in north London on July 10, where one of Waugh's ATM cards was used, the PA reported.
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"Ms. Waugh is a successful businesswoman and her disappearance is completely out of character," McFarlane said, according to the London Evening Standard.
"Following her disappearance, there have been a number of fraudulent transactions associated with Ms. Waugh's bank account. ... There are also a number of her personal possessions that cannot currently be located," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Police officers told The Times that Waugh had been impersonated by at least three women at financial institutions across London. Earlier this week, two women, aged 48 and 50, were arrested on charges of conspiracy to defraud in connection with the case. The 48-year-old has been freed on bail, the newspaper said.
Three men and two other women have been arrested and bailed in connection with the case, reports said. A fourth man, named as 40-year-old Rakesh Bhayani, appeared in a London court via video link on Wednesday, The Times said.
Waugh's family, who are based in the north of England, said they did not know much about Carole Waugh’s life in London. She was able to work sporadically since moving to London in 2008 because she had been "very careful" with her money, her brother Chris, 53, told the PA.
Online dating link?
Waugh is single and police have been trying to trace men she may have met through dating sites, The Times said.
Chris Waugh told reporters that his sister had been planning a vacation in Las Vegas with her female friends. He appealed for his sister's friends, as well as any recent work colleagues, to come forward.
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"We are keen to track them down to see what was going on," the PA quoted him as saying. "If we could find the friends, just to see what light they can shine on [my] sister."
Chris Waugh said it was a "very distressing moment" when he heard someone was posing as him in a fraudulent attempt to sell his sister's apartment, according to the PA.
'Our imaginations have been running wild'
He said his family was "very proud" of his younger sister, who he described as "very focused, strong and driven," The London Evening Standard reported.
"The last time we saw Carole was at Easter when we all got together in (the northern English city of) Durham. We had a great time and we were all very excited about Carole's 50th birthday party in June. We were planning how we would celebrate and I was looking forward to making a fuss of her, as she did for my birthday," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
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"There was nothing to suggest she would go missing. It was all very strange and completely out of character because my sister rings my mother every other day and suddenly, within days of getting together at Easter, the phone calls just stopped," the Evening Standard quoted Waugh as saying.
Members of her family told The Guardian newspaper that it was highly unusual for Carole Waugh not to check in regularly by telephone.
"Our imaginations have been running wild. I've considered several options, she could have gone on a quick holiday but that became less likely as the time went, and because she would still have telephoned mother," Chris Waugh told The Guardian.
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